Sunday, April 10, 2011

The King's Speech

Directed by Tom Hooper, script written by David Seidler. Starring Colin Hirth and Geoffrey Rush, this movie garnered five Oscar awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Art Direction.

The King’s Speech centers on how the stammering habit of King George VI made him a reluctant King and how an Australian Speech Therapist, Lionel Logue, helped him overcome this shortcoming.

While watching this film, I could feel the sincerity of its script writer, David Seidler, in bringing out the truth on the dreaded speech disorder of the late British King. The story is largely based on historical evidence so it is very accurate. In fact most of the scenes and dialogue there can be found in many books about the British royal family. In 2003 I bought a book, “The Royals” by Kitty Kelley and much of the contents of the book are revealed in The King’s Speech.

Based on my research and readings about the British monarchy, King George V, who founded the House of Windsor in 1917, was constantly annoyed with Prince Bertie’s stuttering that he wanted him to increase loads of public engagements to overcome his nervousness. During those years, the King grew tired thinking what will happen to the Kingdom he desperately saved during the terrible period of World War I, when it will be inherited by his fickle-minded heir, Prince David the Prince of Wales, who at 37, still unmarried and was often seen in the company of married women. He had wished his second son, Prince Bertie the Duke of York, to save it from the hands of the Prince of Wales, but the primogeniture succession guaranteed an eldest son only to succeed. Nevertheless, George V was confident the Prince of Wales couldn’t endure the weight of the crown. In the book of Kitty Kelley, the King confided his worry to his aide, “I will pray to God that David won’t have an heir so that nothing could come to the throne except Bertie and Lilibet (Princess Elizabeth). After my death, David will ruin himself and leave the crown to pursue his happiness”…these famous lines were quoted in the film too.

In “Royal Sisters” book by Anne Edwards, I read that several months before his death, George V, was informed that his heir was forming a scandalous affair with a commoner married woman, Wallis Simpson, the King’s concern for the future of the monarchy grew heavier. Unperturbed with the implication of his plan to disinherit the Prince of Wales, George V redesigned his last will testament, though he couldn’t bar David from succeeding, he stripped much of his inheritance and redistributed it to his grandchildren. As the King’s health is failing, Prince Bertie’s anxieties escalated as he had sensed David’s reluctance to remain in the throne without Wallis Simpson at his side.

In January 1936, King George V died and Prince David ascended as King Edward VIII, but eleven months later he abdicated to be with his lover forever, uttering this famous line “I find it impossible to perform my duty as King without the support of the woman I love”, this line was also revealed in the film. Prince Bertie, who dreaded the idea of becoming a King, was forced to pick up the crown. As his hesitation grew, Lionel Logue taught him how to gather confidence and relax, he painstakingly taught the King how to overcome his stammering habit.

Well, the movie was exactly told this way and I am glad the director did not mangle history just like what Philippa Gregory did in the book “The Other Boleyn Girl” which badly distorted the events surrounding Anne Boleyn and her days in the British royal court.

The King’s Speech revolves only on the King’s stuttering habit and not entirely on the history of his family. The important role of Lionel Logue’s in the life of the King was highlighted here. Perhaps the highlight of the film was on the King’s broadcast speech over BBC urging his subjects to unite as the country enters war against Germany which precipitated World War II. It was amazing how Logue’s unique style pumped confidence to the King while struggling to strengthen his speech during the live broadcast. Well, this is one of the most accurate films about the British monarchy I’d ever watched. Very accurate and sincere, no wonder it won the Oscar’s nod.

In real life, well according to British history, King George VI and Lionel Logue became best friends for life, he also awarded Logue with Victorian Cross order, a very rare distinction and honor given by the British monarch to a person who extended a distinguished personal service to the monarch. The King only reigned for 16 years, he died in February 1952 from lung cancer and was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Elizabeth. Lionel Logue died a year later, in 1953. Well, George V’s prophecy proved true. King Edward VIII, who was created Duke of Windsor by his brother, had no children with Wallis Simpson and even if he had, his children would not be in line of succession to the British throne as what he agreed upon renouncing the throne in 1936.

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